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Why Conor Mcgregor Beats Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229

Conor McGregor UFC 229 Betting

On Saturday, October 6, we will see one of the most highly anticipated fights to ever grace the sport of mixed martial arts. Conor McGregor vs Khabib Nurmagomedov has all the makings of a fight that you dream of as a fan of the sport.

It’s new school vs old school, it’s brash personality vs humble sportsman, it’s lavish and loud vs quiet and stoic. But most importantly, it’s striker vs grappler. This fight is the newest instalment of the age-old question of martial arts: what is more effective? A polished game of punches and kicks, or a hard-nosed style of grinding it out on the ground?

Leading up to this bout, many people are leaning toward the Dagestani. He opened as the -170 favorite (for good reason, he’s never lost a fight in his life at 26-0), but I think a strong case can be made for the Irishman. Here are the reasons why I think Conor McGregor will beat Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229.

Conor is far superior on the feet

The idea that McGregor is the better of the two in the striking department is quite an obvious one, but I believe the gap is wider than most people think. Khabib Nurmagomedov has had ample opportunity to show us his skill set on the feet, but has looked lackluster to downright sloppy when he decides to do so. Look no further than his most recent bout with Al Iaquinta when he opted to keep the fight standing during the later rounds. Despite winning those rounds according to the judges, he didn’t look as impressive as he should have against a last-minute replacement fighter who we believed had no business being in the cage with him. Khabib keeps his chin high and swings wildly at times, which he’ll pay for dearly if he takes the same approach vs McGregor. Conor lands 5.44 significant strikes per minute compared to Khabib’s 4.34, and if Nurmagomedov doesn’t improve his defense ahead of this fight, one of those 5.44 a minute will end him.

Conor, on the other hand, has put on a striking master class almost every time he steps inside the Octagon. He has made strikers far superior to Khabib look completely lost in the cage (see Jose Aldo, Eddie Alvarez, Dustin Poirier, etc.). Furthermore, Conor’s wide stance and distance control may make it tough for Khabib to close the distance and grab hold of him as easily as he’s done with other fighters. Nurmagomedov has shown in the past that when a fighter gets aggressive and pushes forward on him, he backs up in a straight line instead of circling out, which is a big striking no-no. If he does this vs McGregor, Ireland’s own will be licking his chops, as you may remember he finished Dennis Siver, Diego Brandao and Chad Mendes from this very same position.

Conor has a four-inch reach advantage going into this fight, which will prove to be a big factor as it allows him to fully utilize his wide and long karate-esque style. Not having this advantage vs Nate Diaz proved troublesome for him as he had to move inside Nate’s reach to land, but look at his fight vs Eddie Alvarez to see just how crisp and precise he is when he can stay outside and pick his shots against an opponent with a shorter reach. While keeping in mind the list of advantages the Irish fighter has on his feet, +165 for him to win by KO/TKO has never looked better.

He’s better off his back than you may have been led to believe

I’m not going to sit here and make the argument that Conor might be able to defend Khabib’s takedown, because that just won’t be the case. While his wide stance may make it more difficult, Khabib will at some point get him on the ground. There’s no denying that. But once the fight is there, Conor will do better than you think.

Throughout his UFC career, we’ve hardly seen McGregor on his back (he’s only been taken down six times, four of those takedowns coming against Chad Mendes), so when you think of his jiu-jitsu, your mind will most likely jump straight to the image of him being tapped out by Diaz. Though I recognize this lowlight, I will argue that when he isn’t exhausted and barely conscious, he has shown flashes of a very strong game off his back. The evidence to back up this claim is limited, but if you look closely, it’s only because McGregor hasn’t had many opportunities to support it.

  • In the first round at UFC 196, Nate took him down only for Conor to immediately grab his leg, sweep him and lay some strikes from a top position.
  • In his fight vs Mendes, the blood from a cut early in the fight made the damage he received on the ground look worse than it was. If you go back and watch it again, you’ll find he did a commendable job of limiting strikes and being patient. The moment Mendes decided to get aggressive and go for a submission, Conor took the opportunity to roll out and get back to his feet.
  • Highly respected figures in the BJJ world have echoed similar thoughts. 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu founder Eddie Bravo and multiple-time IBJJF champion Dillon Danis have gone on record saying that McGregor’s ground game is nothing to scoff at.

There have been flashes of brilliance that have gone mostly unnoticed, but I think we will see more of what he has to offer in this field against Nurmagomedov.

The aura of Conor McGregor

The one factor that will always make me lean toward McGregor in just about every matchup is the energy around all of his fights. Call it a strong mental game, but I think it’s more than that. When Conor fights, it’s always a massive event. The whole world is tuning in, and that kind of pressure can get to a fighter. We witnessed the likes of Dustin Poirier, Eddie Alvarez and even longtime world champion Jose Aldo crumble under the pressure that a McGregor PPV event can bring.

There’s no denying that Conor does a great job of psychological warfare. He feels like if he can make his opponent feel emotional and attached to the outcome on a personal level, it’ll cause him to stall, freeze or overextend once the fight begins. Perhaps the Dagestani is better prepared than most to deal with a spectacle of this magnitude, but you have to think he will at the very least feel the mental and emotional pressure more than he has in any of his previous fights inside the Octagon.

McGregor is an underdog

From a betting perspective, it’s tough to pass up on McGregor as an underdog, even if you think Khabib may win the fight (full odds here). This is one of the very rare times that we’ve seen him not listed as the favorite in an MMA fight. In fact, barring a big move in the line leading up to the fight, this will be only the second time we will see him close as an underdog in the UFC.

On October 6 against Khabib Nurmagomedov, I believe Conor McGregor will give us another example of his extreme striking prowess and dismantle the Dagestani on the feet. If the fight does go to the ground, Conor will surprise a lot of people and limit the damage he receives until he can get back up and start landing blows again. Finally, if there’s an edge to be had in the mental game, it leans in the favor of the Irishman.  

Conor McGregor as the underdog is great value, and grabbing him to get the victory by KO/TKO is a tempting prop if you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous.

Click HERE to see why Scott Hastings thinks Khabib will be the one to come out victorious

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